MHA Awards 2017







We had yet another banner year for publishing in Mormon history, as reflected in the awards granted by at the annual conference in June. The quality and quantity of scholarship on Mormonism seems to increase every year.

Tom Simpson received the Best Book award for his provocative and compelling American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism, 1867-1940 (University of North Carolina Press). This monograph adds nuance to the typical “Americanization” story frequently placed upon the Progressive Era by examining the men and women who attended universities in the East. Shinji Takagi, winner of the Best International Book Award for The Trek East: Mormons Meet Japan, 1901-1968 (Kofford Books), centers his account in the lives of the Japanese, reversing the usual narrative that focuses on American missionaries.

Kerry William Bate’s The Women: A Family Story (University of Utah Press), won the Best Personal History or Memoir Award. This sweeping narrative of four generations of Mormon women brings gendered evolutions to the forefront. For an insightful juxtaposition, the Best Biography Award went to Stephen L. Prince for his Hosea Stout: Lawman, Legislator, Mormon Defender (Utah State University Press), which performs similar work for a better-known figure in Utah history who attempted to balance a gospel of peace with a lived reality of violence.

As always, there was also a cadre of wonderful articles. Two of them, Amanda Hendrix Komoto’s “Mahana, You Naked! Modesty, Sexuality, and Race in the Mormon Pacific” and Taunalyn Rutherford’s “The Internationalization of Mormonism: Indications from India”—winners of the Best Article and Best International Article awards, respectively—represent the hope for more work covering modern Mormonism.

Quincy Newell’s “What Jane Saw,” recipient of the Best Women’s History Article, meditates on the life of African American pioneer Jane Manning James. Richard E. Turley, Jr., and Jeffrey G. Cannon received the Article of Excellence Award for their piece, “A Faithful Band: Moses Mahlangu and the First Soweto Saints.” Both articles help tell the stories of those typically found on the margins.

Graduate student awards went to Christopher C. Smith (Claremont Graduate University) for his dissertation, “Mormon Conquest: Whites and Natives in the Intermountain West, 1847-1851.” The best thesis award was given John Howard Brubaugh, Jr. (Utah State University), for “‘We are Entitled to, and We Must Have, Medical Care’: San Juan County’s Farm Security Administration Medical Plan, 1938-1946,” and the best graduate paper went to Katherine Kitterman (American University) for “‘No Ordinary Feelings’: Mormon Women’s Petitions, 1870-1886.”

Last but far from least, Jill Derr received the Leonard Arrington Award, which is granted only to those who have a distinguished record built over an illustrious career. Derr is known for her substantial work on Mormon women’s history, particularly the life of Eliza R. Snow. But Derr was a pioneer herself as she led us to consider how we can incorporate and foreground women in our historical narratives. The belated flowering of Mormon women’s history is, to a large extent, due to the planting that Derr performed many decades ago. We are all in her debt.

I’d like to thank those generous donors who make these awards possible, as well as the many individuals who served on the different awards committees. A special thanks to JB Haws, who is rotating off the executive board after three years as awards chair. But most of all, sincere thanks to the many practitioners whose work keeps making these award decisions nearly impossible every year!

Ben Park, Awards Chair